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Tape-Hinge Acrylic Box Construction 


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Tape-Hinge Acrylic Box 


Written By: Sean Michael Ragan 


90-degree V groove router bit (1) 

Countersink (1) 

Ear protection (1) 

Gloves (1) 

Go ggles (1) 

Paintbrush (1) 

Router (1) 

Router tabled) 

Rubber band (1) 

to temporarily secure parts for gluing 

Standard drill bits (1) 

X-Acto knifed) 

hand electric drill (1) 


Acrylic/plexiglass sheet (1) 
/ used 3/32" thickness: thicker acrylic 
may require more elaborate cooling 
measures during the cutting operation. 

Acrylic cement (1) 


plain masking tape can be used, as well, 
but the clear tape makes it easier to see 
where the tape is firmly sealed and 
where it is not. 

Acrylic/plexiglass sheet (-4x1") 
no thicker than workpiece 

Wood screws (2) 

For securing heel to push-stick. 

wooden board, (1) 

at least as long as workpiece, at least as 

wide as finished box depth 

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Tape-Hinge Acrylic Box Construction 


If you have a router and the means to cut a straight line with it, this trick for building a 5- 
sided acrylic box is considerably easier than the common slab-joint method, and gives 
better-looking results, to boot. 

Figure out how long, wide, and 
deep you want the finished box to 
be, measured on its outside edges. 
Call these X, Y, and Z. 

The starting panel should have 
dimensions X + 2Z, Y + 2Z. 

Cut your panel to the right 
dimensions, making sure to keep 
the sides straight and true. 

Scoring and snapping will probably 
not be accurate enough. 
Alternately, you can... 

• use a router with an acrylic bit, a 
table saw with an acrylic blade, 
or a computer-controlled tool like 
a laser cutter to cut the panel 

• contract someone to cut the 
panel to size for you, or 

• don't cut the panel at all, and use 
the whole sheet as it came from 
the factory. (That's what I did.) 

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Tape-Hinge Acrylic Box Construction 

• Mount a 90-degree V-groove bit in your router chuck. 

• Adjust the depth of the bit to cut almost all the way through your material, but not quite. 
Test cuts can be made from the waste areas (each of dimension Z x Z) in the four corners 
of the panel. 

• Set the distance between the fence and the point of the bit exactly equal to Z. 

• Pop your sheet of acrylic into the freezer. Let it cool for at least a couple of hours before 

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Tape-Hinge Acrylic Box Construction 

• This is not optional, but essential-both for safety and for consistency of cutting 
depth, especially with thinner material like the 3/32" sheet I'm using here. 

• Select a 1" (nominal) board at least as long as your panel's longest edge, and at least as 
wide as Z. 

• Mount a narrow "heel" of scrap acrylic, or other suitable material, of the same thickness as 
your workpiece, to one end of the board, as shown. Use short flat-head wood screws 
countersunk flush with, or below, the surface. 

• In use, the "heel" will slide behind the workpiece, pushing it into the blade, while the 
board rides on top of it, holding it flat against the table. 

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Tape-Hinge Acrylic Box Construction 

Determine the correct feed direction for the cut. You want the rotating bit to be pushing the 
incoming acrylic against the fence, as it cuts, rather than away from it. 

Remove the cold sheet of acrylic from the freezer. 

Put on goggles, ear protection, and gloves. Start the router. 

• Position one edge of the acrylic sheet against the fence, and hook the trailing edge of 
the sheet with the "heel" on your push stick. 

• With your dominant hand, press down on the push stick to hold the acrylic against the 
router table. With your free hand, maintain gentle pressure against the outside edge of 
the acrylic to keep it tight against the fence. 

• With a continuous, steady, relaxed motion, feed the workpiece through the spinning 
router bit, making the cut. 

Repeat the preceding three steps for the three remaining edges of the panel. When you're 
finished, turn off and unplug the router. 

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Tape-Hinge Acrylic Box Construction 

Peel off the protective film on both sides of the sheet. 

When the cuts get too hot, small pieces of cut plastic may re-melt and stick in the groove. 
These are easily identified as white "furry" patches in the grooved areas. 

Remove any re-melted plastic with a small chisel. Unless the cut got much too hot, they 
should come off easily. 

• Lay the cut acrylic on top of your work surface with the grooved side down. 

• Apply a continuous strip of tape along the entire length of each groove, centered, as best 
as possible, directly over each groove. 

• Smooth the tape down starting in the middle, on the groove, and working out to the sides 
and ends. A big advantage of using clear tape, here, is that it's easy to see any spots that 
are not well adhered. 

• Cut the ends of the tape strips even with the edges of the acrylic sheet. 

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Tape-Hinge Acrylic Box Construction 

• Bending toward the grooved side of 
the plastic, apply pressure with 
your hands as necessary to snap 
the acrylic along each cut. 

• If you have the cut depth 
right, this should be fairly 
easy. If the grooves are a bit too 
shallow, the technique can still 
work well, but you may want to 
snap along a table edge or other 

• Once all four cuts are snapped, lay 
the sheet back on your work 
surface with the grooves facing up. 

Remove the four square pieces of scrap from the corners of the panel. Be careful not to 
damage the tape as you do so. 

Make a single cut in each corner, to free the L-shaped sections of tape that formerly held 
the square scraps. Cut the "overlapped" side of the "L", and leave the other side uncut to 
wrap around the corner of the box. 

Fold up the sides of the box, as shown. Hold each corner firmly together and wrap the 
loose tape tightly across the edge. It is vital to get a good seal all the way along the point 
of each edge. 

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Tape-Hinge Acrylic Box Construction 

• Stretch a large rubber band around the box, as close to the open side as possible, to help 
hold the miters together during the gluing operation. 

• Load a small paintbrush with acrylic solvent cement, and lightly touch it to the top of each 
of the four vertical joints. You should be able to see the solvent "flash" down the joint from 
capillary action. 

• Repeat the above, touching the paintbrush to the center, and perhaps a couple of additional 
points, along the inside of each horizontal joint. Again, you should be able to see the 
solvent flowing along the joint. 

• Let the adhesive sit for several hours at least. Overnight is best. 

Step 10 — Remove tape and clean up 

When the solvent is completely evaporated, peel off the tape. 

If you applied enough adhesive, and had good seals at each taped joint, you should now 
have a sturdy box with nice clean joints and no marring from leaked solvent. 

Goo-Gone or generic citrus oil cleaner has proven effective, for me, in removing 
any tape residue that persists on the acrylic. 

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Tape-Hinge Acrylic Box Construction 

Adequate cooling of the cut is essential; a groove that gets too hot will have a bad finish and 
make a bad joint. The freezer trick I used here might work for you, but longer and/or deeper 
grooves may require spot cooling at the router bit itself. A vortex tube would be perfect, if you 
have one, but canned air might be an inexpensive substitute for small jobs. 

This document was last generated on 201 2-1 1 -03 01 :07:1 9 AM. 

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